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National

IN A HURRY TO LONDON? UK embassy cuts visa processing time to 3 to 5 days - or even 24 hours

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - The long wait for visas is over: That's the message of the UK Embassy in the Philippines to Filipinos wishing to visit Britain. 

The usual 15 working days for processing has been cut down to 3-5 working days for the priority visa service under a new system unveiled by embassy officials Wednesday. Now, Filipinos may apply for a UK Visa and get it, under certain circumstances, within a 24-hour period.

In a press conference at VFS Global in Makati, UK Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad presented the 24-hour Super Priority Visa Service (SPVS) to facilitate the most urgent travel needs. "What we are trying to do is to make our visa processes fast, efficient and flexible," Ahmad stressed.

The UK aims to be the top destination for Filipinos in terms of education and business, and even for those who want to spend their vacation there, he added.

In September 2014, some 53,000 UK visas were issued to Philippine nationals; the total number of visit visas granted rose sharply (62 percent hike in tourist visas and an 8 percent rise in business visits).

Ahmad said that 89 percent of Filipinos who applied for visas in that period "were actually successful."

The Philippines is one of the Asian countries where a super priority visa service was introduced by the UK government, along with China, Thailand and India. The SPVS particularly will be useful for investors as it may help businessmen to fast-track their transactions. "We want entrepreneurs and businessmen to focus their energy on sealing the deal rather than worrying about whenever they could get their visa in time before their flight," said Ahmad.

The British embassy's 24-hour UK Visa service will officially start on February 23, 2015.

Quick service, higher fee

Expectedly, an optional first-class visa service to visit the UK will entail a higher fee depending on the degree of urgency with which the visa is required.

The regular 15-working day general visitor visa with a short-term period of 6 months requires an applicant to pay $129 or P5,676.

On the other hand,  £100 or P7,500 is required for the priority visa service that has a 3-5 working day process. 

For the latest 24-hour super priority visa service, a person has to pay a £600 or P45,000 to get an immediate decision from the embassy. "If someone is willing to pay a super priority visa fee they'll be almost in their own minds pretty much certain they're qualified anyway," Ahmad said.

Other services the British embassy offers is the "Prime Time Service" which gives customers the flexibility of an appointment at a visa application center outside the usual working hours; this entails a service fee of P3,750.

The "Passport Passback Service" enables customers to retain their passport while their visa is being processed; for this, an additional P3,000 is imposed.

For an additional P2,500, customers may enjoy the luxury of the "Premium Lounge" where they can have personalized service with refreshments and less time to wait.

Walk-through of process

Stephen Thompson, the British embassy's regional operations manager, gave the media a walk-through of the visa application process.

An applicant must get a number first inside the Visa Application Center (VAC) before entering the reception area. 

As soon as the number is called, all documents must be submitted to the counter. After that, biometrics will be done right away. 

These three simple steps will be accomplished in a span of 30 minutes, Thomson said. "The commitment that we've got with our commercial partners here in VFS is 45 minutes, and it's important that we are trying to trim that time down as much as we possibly can. Currently we are looking at a journey time of around 30 minutes."

Further details about the UK visa services may be checked on www.gov.uk/visas-immigration.

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